Throughout my first and second year spent at Carleton, I always heard that traveling is the highlight of one’s exchange…and it’s true! I was forunate enough to travel within China and Southeast Asia during my exchange. Being able to witness the differences between each city in China and countries within Asia and Southeast Asia has been an unforgettable journey. From riding an elephant in Phuket, Thailand to visiting the National Palace in Seoul, South Korea, it has been a lot of fun and the highlight of my exchange.
During the Chinese New Year, I had seven weeks off to explore Southeast Asia. Most places in SE Asia does not require a visa (except for a few places such as Indonesia and Vietnam) so it was very easy to travel between countries. Also, since SISU accepts many students from Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, it is the perfect opportunity to visit these students in their hometowns. Although it felt weird to be wearing shorts and tshirts in Janurary when it is normally freezing in Ottawa, it was a really nice change to have hot weather!
Traveling within SE Asia is pretty inexpensive. With LCC’s (low cost carriers) in SE Asia such as Air Asia, Spring Airlines and Thai Lion Air, we were able to find tickets as low as $30 CDN. (Yes, only $30 CDN!) The only thing is, it seems like everyone else has the same idea during the Spring Festival, so book your tickets early! We booked in early November for travel in Mid-Janurary, as plane tickets can get pretty expensive. Costs within SE Asia were also inexpensive, with the exception of Japan and South Korea, but it was definitely worth it. Whether it be travelling with a large group of friends or just one other, finding accommodations and flights beforehand is much easier and relieves a lot of stress.
Aside from exploring Asia, we often forget to explore China. Unfortunately during first semester, I did not really have the opportunity to explore China and Shanghai much. There is a lot to see within your own backyard, but it is easy to get caught up in other things until you realize that there is less than two months left of your exchange! Do not let that be you! With the bullet train, visiting cities such as Nanjing, Xi’an, Beijing, Guangzhou is quick and inexpensive, and a good option comparable to flying. Close cities such as Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo can be easily done over a weekend, whereas further places would require taking time off school. Teachers here generally understand if you do decide to take a few days off, as long as you write the midterms and finals.
There’s a little less than six weeks left of this amazing journey! Time truly does go by so quickly. Looking back, the only thing I would have changed was to travel more.
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